the same as mine.

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Some things fade.
They feel like my dreams, like each corner I turn is unfamiliar.

“I know this place.” I say to myself.
But sometimes, time is a lead pencil with a cheap eraser.

Places leave us, as we leave them. My heart bursts from all its creases, and at times, it still finds a way to save itself from ruin. If you’re still here, your heart is the same way — the same as mine.

I sat at a table and saw your ghosts. How you used to drink your coffee. I saw where I buried my pain and where I discovered my greatest joy. Yes it was in between walls but it was also in those creases of my heart.

It was where I discovered the truths of humanity shared — that people are the truest way to presentness.

That is rich. Like dark chocolate and butter and heavy cream — drizzled and smoothed over something that is already just too much.

I was heart sick for so much. To connect. To discover again. But mostly, to be back home where it is becoming more and more evident that my world exists in a tiny corner, of a tiny city in a state no one understands.

I find whatever all of this is, to be the sum of its parts. Maybe this is the beautiful stuff I will think about when I’m dying — when I’m wondering how life moved so quickly and how I became so stiff and filled with old memory.

What a story, I already claim. To have loved greatly and given so much of my heart — to know what it is like to watch it shatter and gather it, along with all the other broken things. I get to sit around with these people and watch them eat things I cook.

I get to watch them grow older with their person and I get to see their babies get peanut butter stuck in their hair or blow kisses to me as I say goodbye.

Your heart is the same as mine. Blubbering and wonderful. Our heavily flawed muscle.

You may not remember where the streets go, or what they turn into.
But I can tell you that it’s not forever lost.

And you are forever, a ghost, a place at my table

— a love with the heart that is the same as mine.

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put away your phones!

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I take pride in being a good dining companion.

But, I also have one of those damn iPhones.

I know, right?

I’m hear to say that it’s okay to put it away when you eat your food.

Let me start by saying, a lot of my job is built on the philosophy of hospitality. Meaning, we work hard and run and cook your food, and you pay us for it. There is so much more, though.

There are times when I get to peak out of the pass to see tables full of people with their heads down scrolling through their phones, seemingly wishing to be anywhere but there. They eat their food without talking, and they go back to work or home. Most likely, they will get back on their phones at their final destination. Regardless, they are paying attention to the wrong things.

I should also say that I am one of these people, quite often. Head down. Thumb mindlessly tapping and swiping. The peripheral is a blurry horizon but at least I have checked and I have no new emails, and that burst of joy from someone liking my Instagram picture has faded. These past few months, I have been solidly working on NOT checking my phone at every urge just because I can. The idea is that we’re missing out on something that we should know about.

There’s something so discouraging about sitting at a table full of people with their phones. That in turn makes me pull out my phone because I’m left staring at a wall. When you disconnect yourself from people, they feel it. Well, I feel it. If you need to take a call or get back to someone because it is important, be intentional with your companions.

I’ve gotten into the habit of checking my phone any time I am by myself.  I am reminded of the Louis C.K. bit about being afraid of being alone with your emotions.

While there is that, I want to take this space to talk about its form in the dining world.

phonestacking

As a person who cooks all day for other people, and who occasionally finds himself sitting at a table with good folk, I encourage you to keep your phones tucked away for a while.

I realize, we live in a world where things can change so fast. We want to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

We want to see and know everything but we also want that distance that keeps us safe.

So, I think, people aren’t very safe. We are unruly and unexpected and we say things without the proper space to react. We rejoice in awkwardness because it is our generations new form of humor. We are afraid of being awkward people, and phones are making us even more awkward people.

All of this, is coming from an introvert who really loves the space of text communicating with people. But just because I recharge away from people, doesn’t mean I am shy to speak to another person. It also doesn’t mean that I am socially awkward. I actually think I’ve grown a lot these past few years by putting myself out there, only to realize that we are all the same wobbly boat, just trying to figure some shit out.

Am I right?

Being in the restaurant biz has helped loads, as well. You get the opportunity to speak to and meet new kinds of people all the time. It becomes second nature to absorb people’s words and attitudes. Separating yourself from that can take some time to figure out.

Take a couple of lessons from the guys at restaurant Joe Beef up in Montreal:

Come prepared with some good stories. Nothing too long, because you know our attention spans are maybe ten seconds long.

Don’t over do it with the alcohol. When you become a liability, folks have to start looking out for you. Save the spins for home, that way you have the comforts of your own toilet to pass out next to. 

Eye contact. And I am the worst, but I’m working on it. When people are talking to you, look at them. Affirm their words, even if you don’t agree. When talking back, try your best to make eye contact again. If that’s too much for the first bit, stare in between their forehead. Hey, I hear that works.

Eating is one of the only things that we separate from our usual days of work and hustle and sleep. It is when we sit down to feed ourselves. Eating alone is OKAY. I promise. Instead of your phone, maybe read a book, or sit outside on the steps and get some fresh air.

If you want to play a fun game with your friends, place all your phones stacked in the middle of a the table. The first to reach, has to pay the tab. That’ll show em’!

But for real, y’all.

Let’s work on being better companions. With dining, and with our relationships. I promise, we are worth our weight and it’s always such a joy to discover another person again and again.

(ps. and here’s some Jungleland, if you wanted to hear it.)

the mystery of other worlds

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Sometimes, when I look out into a room,
or when I sit at a table,
I imagine tiny universes
sorta, spinning around.

I see them give and take,
smile and nod and reach,
as though they are trying to understand another world
vastly different from their own.

I understand this.
At times, I am the one who helps facilitate.
I am the one who keeps their glasses full
and their plates warm with food.

It is not the burden of Atlas that I carry,
but the weightlessness that comes
with noticing the invisible things
and the gravity of a new discovery.

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I’ve always enjoyed space.
I love the mystery of other worlds,
which is why I love the mystery in you. As you.
This unknown galaxy swirling like the Milky Way

Don’t let this time go to waste.
You only have a few moments to be this connected
and to discover!
and to explore!

I remember watching the sun shine on your skin
How it glowed, and also its shadows,
the way it allowed me to stand in wonder
as I do always, when I stumble upon a world not my own,

a little universe
with its own fiery suns
as swirling stars.
there you are,

sitting and falling,
moving with intention,
all with a slight lean,
as different worlds do,

drifting into their own forever.

daytime dreamin’ (my future in food)

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I keep talking myself out of this. I suppose it’s my fear of the unknown, and that things can change so quickly. But I want to talk about my future in food. I also want to get into the conversation of food and place.

More so, the shift of food cultures.

I guess I’ve been afraid of comparing one place to another. There are layers of history and terrain and economics. While cooking in Portland, I grew to understand a lot of the growing seasons.

I guess I worry about making one place look better than the other. It would be unfair of me to do such a thing. We all have our homes and our sweet spots. There are some ways Portland really works, and I’d love to see those same things where I live as well. You get used to a certain quality of life, it is hard to move downward, in a way.

As a cook, and especially as a cook who cares about where his food comes from, being aware of the surroundings is one of the most important things you can do. What is it that people respond to? Where is there a need? What do people want?

I struggle with the lack of a local food movement. Or if there is one, it isn’t being promoted as much as it should. I suppose in Portland, you can be out picking up your dog’s crap and run into a farmer’s market. It’s easy to be spoiled in a place like Portland.

I dream about having my own place one day.

I know, I know.

Go ahead and talk me out of it. Tell me to do something better and easier with my life. I’m really trying to see it that way. Trust me. I’d love to move on and work on a different career where I didn’t have to work every weekend and night and miss out of things. Because that seems to be what people miss the most.

But there are lots of ways to do what you want to do. I feel like I’ve talked about this before.

I don’t feel like I’ll be shaking this off any time soon.

It’s not even that I want to be famous. Trust me, I like to be small, even though I am a big dude. I want to give people something better.

Look, it’s not that southern food here isn’t good. It’s some of the best. We have a built a truly unique food culture in the South. But there’s so much more. At the risk of sounding ridiculous, it could be so much cooler.
There’s a shift that might take some time. Price and product. Quality over quantity.

wine_glasses_on_table

I want people to get into it.
I want people to get nerdy.
I want people to care.

I get excited at the idea.
I know what kind of napkins I want to use,
or what I want to hang on the walls.

I’m already to the point where I’m not going to be staging in a Michelin rated kitchen. Culinary school is still bleak, and I’m just not interested in it any more for the price.
There is certainly a lot to gain from working under super talented chefs in kitchens all over the world.
I suppose my head is swimming with ideas. Things that I want to do. Things I want to cook. I want to give people, like so many others do, something honest, simple and good.

It’s what I think about going to sleep at night, and I’m willing to sacrifice a lot to get there.

Why am I writing this? Because it’s important to me, and it’s important for me to connect with people. I want to feed them and I want them to feel taken care of. I want to give them the kind of experience that hooked me in.

If I have a gift for this, I want to give it away.

I am assuring myself, that things might change when I have less energy, but even then, it is meaningful work. It’s something I’m going to work towards, as well. I owe that to the place I call home, and wherever it is I end up digging deep.

A poem somewhere said to beware of the ones who dream while they are awake.

I am dreaming.

And though it is late, I am very much awake.